Staff and volunteers at food pantries, food banks and grab-and-go food sites are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in New York after state lawmakers pushed for their inclusion over the last month. 

The push to include these workers to receive the vaccine comes amid skyrocketing hunger amid the economic recession brought on by the pandemic. 

Workers in food pantries that are also part of homeless shelters were eligible to receive the vaccine. But workers in food banks, stand-alone pantries, and other food distribution sites had not been included.

“The number of unsheltered and food insecure New Yorkers has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat from Manhattan who was among the legislators making the push for the vaccine eligibility expansion.

"Though staff and volunteers at food banks throughout the state put their lives and health on the line to get food to hungry New Yorkers, they had not, until now, been prioritized to receive the vaccine. Given the fact that other similarly situated professionals, such as grocery store workers and restaurant wait staff, had already been on the list, it should not have taken a mobilization of dozens of lawmakers and food bank leaders to win this victory, but I am relieved that we were successful because now thousands of essential, frontline workers will be protected against COVID-19."

Rosenthal, along with Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas and more than two dozen state lawmakers who urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter in February to expand vaccine eligibility under Phase 1B of distribution. 

More than 4 million first and second doses of the vaccine have been administered in New York. The single dose Johnson & Johnson manufactured vaccine is expected to be distributed in the coming days after state and federal regulators approved its emergency use.